The Last Word
Memories from Burma

With the recent news regarding Burma (Myanmar), it is a good time to recount the story of Sao Kya Sent '53, who became the hereditary ruler of Hsipaw Shan State in Burma, and is thought to have died at the hands of Burma's military dictatorship, although his body was never found.

When he was a young man, his family and advisors felt that Sao should obtain mining and engineering experience, since Hsipaw had great mineral wealth and several mining operations within its borders, including the famous Bawdwin Mines operated by the British. After some deliberations, it was decided to send Sao to the famous Colorado School of Mines. While Sao was attending Mines, he met an Austrian exchange student, Inge Eberhard, who was a student at Colorado Women's College. They were married prior to returning to Burma.

In late 1957, I was contacted by the Dunwoody Industrial Institute of Minneapolis, MN, to consider a position as advisor in mineral technology to the Burmese Government. My area of expertise was mining and dealt primarily with mineral processing, exploration, assaying and surveying. A curriculum was developed and laboratories were prepared and maintained. Two other instructors in mineral technology were employed, one from Mines, Harry McFarland '32, and one from the Netherlands.

Insein is located some ten miles north of Rangoon and within a month of my arrival in Burma I had located some of the few Mines graduates from Burma. Most of them were employed by government agencies or the national university and worked in Rangoon. We occasionally met for informal alumni meetings, and Sao sometimes met with us when he was in the city for business.

On numerous occasions the Burmese Mining Ministry sent me to mining operations or prospecting areas. In the summer of 1959, I was sent to the Bawdwin Mines located within the Hsipaw Shan State. The mines had been badly damaged during the Japanese occupation of Burma during World War II but were in operation. Since I was to be in Hsipaw, I arranged for a visit with Sao and Inge. This was a special opportunity, as my son and two small daughters were able to visit a state ruler and his princess - the girls still remember meeting a real princess. I was also pleased to have the opportunity to observe some of the great things Sao had accomplished for his subjects in the way of advanced agriculture, employment and infrastructure in his Shan state. Though we observed Burma as somewhat technically backward, it was populated with wonderful, caring people, and it was an interesting and colorful country.

I left Burma in September 1959, but have kept up with the news of the country ever since. In the Mines magazine of July/August 1996 there was an article written by Sao's wife, Inge, who had returned to the United States and later married Tad Sargent, and was living in Boulder, CO. This article, plus her book My Life as a Shan Princess (published by the University of Hawaii Press) enumerated how she and Sao had met, the great things he had done for the Hsipaw State, and of his death at the hands of the Burmese army. Her book also details her problems being under house arrest for two years and how she finally made her escape to Austria with her two daughters.